Saturday's UL-UK game was one of the best games in years inside the rivalry. It was a national coming out party for Damion Lee and his 27-point performance along with near-heroics to win the game. It was also likely the last time Pitino will coach in Rupp as the Louisville coach.
That should be the conversation going on, but it is not; it is about Rick Pitino. It is about him flipping the UK crowd off (which Mark Coomes tries to blame on the ‘ugly underbelly of the rivalry'), skipping the press conference, and then skipping any appearance whatsoever while his assistant coach and players fell on the sword for him.
It is about him claiming the rivalry is not important to him, then claiming it is an ‘extremely emotional and difficult experience' to coach in Rupp Arena. It is also about him flat out lying about his postgame intentions, saying that he had told his SID that no matter the outcome he would not be attending the press conference.
I guess his SID had a convenient case of amnesia, as Mark Coomes would put it.
Pitino's blog . What's odd is SID staff of UL said post he was going to podium. Then he would come out to tunnel. Then nothing. Excuses?
— Andy Sweeney (@TheOnlySweeney) December 28, 2015
I can only assume it is because there is literally nothing else that the Cardinal fan base can say to the UK fan base, so they have now decided to take the angle of ‘UK fans should not disrespect Pitino' since he saved our program.
One of the major culprits in this is the aforementioned Mark Coomes of InsiderLouisville.com. Coomes wrote an article, the crux of which being that UK fans need to respect Pitino for his time at UK instead of lashing out at him flipping the bird and such.
Here is a wacky thought, how about instead of indicting UK fans for disrespecting your coach, you stand up for yourselves and demand that your supposed bastion of higher education and athletic department stop disrespecting every aspect of your fandom? Every time you turn around you have a scandal going on, yet your concern is what UK fans think of your coach. It's time to look up "priority" in the dictionary.
However, let us address the ‘disrespecting of Coach Pitino' and how Coomes puts it, saying UK fans, "suffer from an astonishingly convenient case of situational amnesia when it comes to Rick Pitino."
First off, I am one of the members of Big Blue Nation that does not hate Rick Pitino. I think it was certainly a questionable move for him to decide to coach at Louisville, and I did not like it, but that is where it ended for me.
A big part of that varying indifference is I care too much about UK to put much effort into obsessively hating Pitino for going to UL. After all, it is not like he left UK for UL, it was only after a failed stint in the NBA that he decided to come back to college.
I also know he wanted to come back to Camelot, but it was not the right time for Kentucky; the move to fire Tubby and bring Rick back just could not happen. So Rick needed a job, our rival came calling and he answered.
RESPECTING WHAT HE DID AT KENTUCKY
Coomes goes on to say, "The man singlehandedly rescued the program from disaster and disrepute. He rebuilt the Roman Empire of College Basketball. He restored its pride and reasserted its dominance."
To this I reply, you are 100% correct, no argument here, no argument from any member of Big Blue Nation.
What Rick Pitino did at Kentucky is undeniably fantastic. I guarantee you that if you asked ANY member of BBN to give you their thoughts on Pitino's time at UK and you will get nothing but glowing reviews and gushing about the glory days of UK Basketball.
This is a fact that Mr. Coomes does not mention, but again, that would not fit his agenda of throwing shade at BBN to distract from the train wreck he roots for.
Coomes also says that "UK Basketball owes a debt to Pitino that cannot be repaid." This is correct, and while it cannot be repaid, the University certainly honors it by having the man's name hanging in the rafters.
That may not mean as much to Coomes as it does to BBN, but this is understandable. The history and tradition of UK Basketball is unparalleled. I do not expect a Louisville apologist to understand the significance.
Kentucky is not North Carolina; we do not hang a banner for every little accomplishment or in some instance, a claim of accomplishment. Kentucky is not Indiana, we do not make popcorn boxes commemorating a regular season win, nor do we give our players sweet sixteen rings.
Kentucky is a program that only puts the best of the best of the best in the Rafters of Rupp Arena. Rick Pitino is in that club, and honestly, that is something he earned, and UK gladly honors to this day and will continue to honor as long as the program is around.
The bottom line is this: Kentucky fans everywhere LOVE, and ADORE the version of Rick Pitino that was in Lexington from 1989 to 1997. That is an indisputable fact, and to say that Big Blue Nation needs to respect his time at UK is way off base...we already do bud, it is when he left Lexington that the zeppelin caught fire.
THE DEVOLUTION OF RICK
Mr. Coomes, if you want to know why a lot of UK fans do not like or respect Rick Pitino now, I will gladly educate you. I will grant you this; there is a significant portion of Big Blue Nation that still has not forgiven Rick for A) leaving UK and B) going to Coach UL.
Having said that, here is the rub; if Rick Pitino would have mirrored his actions off the court with, let's say John Calipari, he would have been just fine.
- If Rick had not sparked a national scandal with Karen Sypher, he would still have a lot of those people's respect.
- If Rick Pitino had not forced an abortion and coordinated a relationship in the aforementioned Sypher scandal, he would still have those people's respect.
- If Rick Pitino had not tossed aside his self-awareness, he would have been ok. The man chastised fellow conference members who were on the verge of switching conferences by saying this:
"My problem is you did it in 48 hours. Don't run away with a girl after one date when you've been dating someone else for three or four years. You've been dating this woman for 30 years, show a little respect."
This was after the incident on the table top at Porcinis. That is like B-Roll for a bad sitcom trying to get a laugh; comedy sitcom writers would not even put that into a script because it is so obtuse.
- If Rick Pitino's hypocrisy of honor for his fallen Brother-in-law Billy Minardi had not jumped the shark (that same brother-in-law who's sister he so publicly shamed and disrespected), he would still have those people's respect.
- If Rick Pitino had not been overseeing a program that is in the middle of a scandal where ONE OF HIS FORMER PLAYERS AND CURRENT ASSISTANTS turned the Billy Minardi Hall into the Billy Minardi Brothel, he would still have those people's respect.
- Lastly, if Rick Pitino had not succumbed to a fan yelling and decided to revert to his juvenile ways and flipped off the crowd, he would still have those people's respect.
The best comparison I have seen used to describe ‘The Two Ricks' is very apropos for today. The UK Rick Pitino is Anakin Skywalker and UL Rick Pitino is Darth Vader. Same person, much different periods of their lives.
I am quite certain that had Rick Pitino not devolved into the person he is today, there would still be a LARGE portion of BBN out there that would have stopped clinging to their hate.
But there are now two Rick Pitinos in the eyes of Big Blue Nation and myself, the Rick that did in fact bring UK back from the dead and vaulted us back to the top, and the current Rick that has more baggage in his closet than a member of the Kardashians.
There is also a giant elephant in the room with Coomes' post, the sanctimonious nature of it could not be clearer if he tried. Spoiler alert; Coomes could not care less what UK fans think of Rick Pitino, just like every single member of Big Blue Nation could not care less what #L1C8 thinks of John Calipari.
One of my favorite parts of the agenda driven manifesto is the following quote:
"But only the hardest heart is unable to imagine, if only for a second, how hard it must be for Pitino to be mocked and insulted in the gym he called home for eight long, hard, victorious years."
I got news for you Mark, that is a two-way street. Imagine, if only for a second, how hard it must be for Big Blue nation to watch a once great hero of the commonwealth devolve into the caricature he has become, all while coaching our biggest rival. Then, to see him in likely his final game on the sidelines at Rupp, walk off the court and give a big F** YOU to the fans who used to worship him as a demi-god.
So let's call it what it really is; a reach to try to find anyway to dig at the UK Fan base. It is a feeble attempt to deflect from the absolute dumpster fire in process on Floyd Street. It is a pretty terrible time to be a Louisville fan and I cannot blame them for trying to find any little crevice they can.
However, this is no crevice, this is no chink in the armor, the 100% truth is this: there is no lack of respect for the UK version of Rick Pitino, there is not even a lack of respect for the man as a coach. He is a hall of famer and deservedly so.
However, Kentucky has EIGHT National Championships with five different coaches. The program is exponentially bigger than Rick Pitino. The program is one that has endured much and been successful in nearly every decade.
What Rick Pitino did at UK was fantastic, phenomenal even... but let's not act like he is the only good coach we have had that has dominated the sport. Rick owes UK just as much as UK owes him, true story.
The only disrespect is the manner in which every thing that goes wrong at Louisville is spun as somehow a shot at UK by the apologists that reside under the umbrella of misguided principles that comprise the whole lot of the school.